Hussein, a 24-year-old Yemeni student who aspires to become an English teacher, believes in practicing his speaking skills with as many different people as possible. He joined Amideast’s Qisasna to get this experience. On the other side of the ocean, Sarah, a 23-year-old American student majoring in conflict analysis and resolution, has always been interested in cultural exchange as she believes it will help her gain awareness of global issues both in day-to-day life and in her future career.
While both students were motivated by their own goals to join Qisasna, little did they know that the program would send them on a journey of more than just a virtual exchange of ideas. They would discover a platform that enabled them to learn, voice their opinions, build friendships, and develop a diverse set of skills that will pave the way for their future careers and refine their personalities.
Hussein, who decided to participate in Qisasna after talking about the program with a friend, reflected on how his last-minute decision to join led to a rewarding experience. “Qisasna was an all-of-a-sudden idea, to be frank. A friend of mine, who is a Qisasna alumnus, passed me in the street and we ended up talking about this [virtual] exchange program. And you know what? I just adored the idea that I could finally make friendships with people from the U.S., and that I will work with them for a period of four months. I was enthusiastic and directly asked him how to register into the program. I was in luck because there was a spring semester. And here we go with my story. I participated in Qisasna, and after four months of hard work and dedication, I succeeded in working with a team of other Yemeni and U.S. students, I did a podcast production!” he said.
Throughout the virtual exchange, the students shared information regarding their countries and cultures. Sarah believed that Qisasna provided her with an experience that usually comes from traveling to a different place while interacting with diverse cultures. “I have always wanted to visit other countries and learn about other cultures, but I have not really been able to travel to any foreign countries as of yet. However, with the Qisasna program, I was able to do just this—but very easily and conveniently from my own room! I was able to interact with my Yemeni peers, gain a better understanding of their culture, and work with them on a shared project—all of which I really enjoyed and found meaningful,” she said.
During the Qisasna program, participants create podcasts that are unique and varied. In the facilitated, synchronous sessions, participants voice their opinions and shared thoughts on a critical global topic, then select their podcast team and choose their own topic. Throughout the program, participants improve their global competency skills while learning more about themselves and the world around them. “Qisasna is not only a program of exchanging ideas in English. Rather, as you take part in Qisasna, you will learn teamwork, understand different cultures, and dedicate yourself to perfecting your efforts with your team. So, I would say that a person taking part in Qisasna should [enroll] in a totally new experience which leads to creating a better personality and a better version of ourselves, as a key reason for participating,” said Hussein.
By giving participants the experience of leading a project, which included identifying audiences and resources around the world, Qisasna provides young people the opportunity to highlight their talents and skills. Participants contributed these talents through the entire process, from producing the graphic designs for podcast covers to audio creations and mixes. Sarah reflected on the skills she gained from participating in a virtual exchange generally, as well as from the podcast tasks that Qisasna centered on.
Qisasna was more than just a virtual exchange, it was a journey filled with memories and lessons. The program fulfilled its purpose by providing students with an educational yet enjoyable experience.
Interested in joining the Qisasna (Our Story) virtual exchange program and journey? Sarah has great advice: “I think other people should know that although this journey may be a bit difficult and hard at times, if they are up for getting to learn about different cultures (such as Yemen for example) and trying their best at engaging with their peers to create a finalized product, I think they will really have an overall fun and meaningful time!”
You can hear and support Qisasna students’ podcast episodes here.
Read the transcripts for each audio clip here.